Chris Dahlgren Quartet | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Chris Dahlgren Quartet


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Whenever a working band with a strong aesthetic makes its Chicago debut, it deserves mention--even if you've never heard of anyone in it. Chris Dahlgren, the bassist, leader, and composer for this quartet, gives a clear picture of what he wants from his music: a lean, sharply angled, at times noisy aesthetic. Dahlgren has constructed a surging, hard-edged front line featuring newcomer Peter Epstein on tenor sax and the rock-honed guitar of Ben Monder, who--on the yet-to-be-released album Slow Commotion--takes especially good advantage of Dahlgren's carefully constructed compositions. He uses a soaring, reverberating, occasionally distortion-squawking tone that falls into a "postromantic" category, pushing past the stylizations of John Abercrombie into the territory that David Torn staked out a few years ago--a tone that fits hand in glove with the aptly titled tune "Velociraptor." Monder enables the band to occupy the heavily electrified, industrial-influenced realm of a song like "Harmonic Cloud # 3," and he brings a prickly, burning edge to his unison lines with tenor. These guys keep the music fairly rough--clearly an artistic choice, given their obvious polished command of their instruments. Bands like this offer a neo-classic take on the jazz fusion of the 70s, similar to the wanna-be-boppers' recasting of the hard-bop of the 50s and 60s. Dahlgren does it better than many: he reminds us that some full-fledged jazz musicians remain committed to the synergies of electric improvisation first tapped by fusion a quarter century ago. Friday, 10 PM, Bop Shop, 1807 W. Division; 235-3232. NEIL TESSER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): uncredited photo.

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